Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

Advertisements

Well Goodness Gracious Me

I have been resigned for a long time now to the sound of the telephone ringing just before tea-time. It’ll be the land line – not the mobile – and it will have the classic silence and clicking before a subcontinental voice comes on and lies to me.

The lie will be one of the classics  – Telstra Technical Department, Microsoft Technical Support, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police, roof solar panels,etc.

It will commence with the voice asking me if I am Mr. Stein, or the householder. I have learned to ignore this question and ask directly to whom I am speaking. Generally they will give a first name and a slightly mumbled organisation name. Very few of them ever admit to being a Gupta or a Ranjit…it is always a Brad or a Janet. In many cases you can hear the Hindi being screeched in the background and in one instance I could swear I could hear the humidity…

I’ve tried everything. Abruptness, sugary sweetness, baffled confusion, a heavy German accent…none of it seems to stem the flow of bullshit from the receiver’s earpiece. It’s only a whim or the effect of the afternoon cocktail that makes a difference between swearing at them and singing to them. But I grow tired of it – especially when I have better things to do.

So now I am going to start firing off a series of letters of complaint to the only authority who can put a stop to it – the Indian government. If they are going to host these electronic bedbugs, they can be held up for airing as well as the bedding. I’m sure it will be for the most part futile, but the pleasure to be had in abusing a dignitary for a dollar is cheap enough amusement.

Putting You On Notice…

One of the classic phrases that comes up repeatedly in Australia is ” Putting someone on notice “. I don’t know whether it also occurs in North America, Europe, or Asia, but here it has been constantly in the mouth of every level of officialdom.

We’ve just had it again from a local politician – possibly a state minister for police, or justice, or traffic revenue, or scolding…whichever – in her case it was to warn motorcyclists that there is now a jury-rig camera system that takes a picture of the back of their motorcycles as they pass it by. So they dare not speed.

Riiiight.

The phrase is nothing more than one of those high-sounding concoctions like ” At this point in time ” or ” It has come to our notice ” that make the person using it sound like a prat. An official prat, but a posturing prat nevertheless. In other, more honest contexts, it could be seen as a threat or bullying tactic.

What should you do when someone uses it to you? Well, do take note of whatever threat they are trying on and plan how to counter it, but also let them know that you think them hackneyed and trite. And that you will be watching them to see if they become worse posers with time – and making sure that others laugh at them.

In short…put them on notice.

Fashion In Spite Of The Designers

The heading image is a fantasy – at present. It is the result of a conversation with a friend about the dull colouration of modern motor cars and how much we wish there were more exciting options on the road.

I’m luckier than she is – my green Suzuki is pretty bright, and while it is not exclusive, it is a cheery cut above the grey and black suburban tanks that clog the freeways. My standard joke about the green machine is that it is bright enough to allow people to see me even if I do not see them. Here’s a hint – it ain’t a joke…

She’s got a small white sedan – but a sense of fashion and taste that comes of being a model and a dancer. Her Instagram selfies are always amazing confections and I think that she may be the salvation of many a dress shop in the town. So she thought up some ideas for the Yaris.

I took daylight shots of the car and started to imagine it in different garb. She asked for painted hub caps and roof, and then we went on to a bonnet decoration and colour on the side mirrors. There may also be a business logo on the rear window in time.

I suggested that vinyl wraps would be a good way to try this concept on the body panels – if the idea palled, the vinyl would allow a reversal or replacement without affecting the paintwork. Keeping the divisions to the panel lines aids in this. The hub caps are the simplest thing in the world to paint – any competent panel shop could have them done in a day, and I reckon I could do them myself as easily.

I’ve seen lots of cars that have been done as customs or hot rods, but few that are used as daily drivers – certainly few with interesting paintwork. I do hope that this project goes ahead to see whether some style can come to the street.

The Bunnings Phenomenon

I’ve written of Bunnings before – the local Australian version of the DIY shop or Home Depot. It is undoubtedly like other shops in other countries in that it sells nails and plumbing fittings, but in other respects it is wholly our own.

The first time I cottoned on to this was on World Talk Like A Pirate Day. All the staff dressed up as pirates – and we’re talking about senior citizen employees as well as junior staff – and talked like pirates. It was a bit disconcerting, when all I went in for was a can of spray paint, to see hardware clerks rolling their Rrrrrr’ses early in the morning…

Today they supplemented the standard sausage sizzle stand that parks out front of the place with Christmas cupcakes. I have no idea whether these are a commercial product or fundraiser’s specials, but I do salute the imagination that used a pretzel for the reindeer horns…

One cake is missing. Not my fault.

 

 

” Stop Writing Your Blog “

” Just stop it. Get out and do something useful. ”

This is the orders from a well-known English advertising writer who has published a book on creativity. He is able to insist on this because we have paid $ 18 to buy the tiny little yellow book that he wrote and he is not there for us to argue with.

Mind you, the first four pages of this $ 18…errr…I mean this book…have been devoted to telling us that there are no rules. So we’d better obey. I don’t know if there is an or-else to go with it, but at $ 18 you sort of expect one.

Get this in perspective – I also bought a book the same day written by Guy de Maupassant for $ 4.95 and I suspect it might have been better written…

Okay, heavy humour aside, I think our English hack is way off the beam in his judgement of the humble online page. Call it a blog, weblog, column, essay, or what you will, it is a real thing that can do real good or real harm. It may do it for free, or it may garner a little money. It won’t get the advertising agency fee that would feed an $ 18 author but it might just provide an even more valuable thing; an opportunity for someone to write, photograph, draw, and think…and opportunity that they may never have had in the world before.

There are enough vaporous weblogs to fill a zeppelin hangar – enough poetic ones to gag a unicorn. Enough recipe columns to keep us at the stove until Doomsday. There are enough movie reviews, literary sniping matches, and commercial plugs to fill all the rest of our time. And the wonderful thing is that we need not read them all – but we can if we wish. We need not write them all – but if it is late and we’ve got a good idea…

Not all creativity has to be billed at an hourly rate – not every writer has to be the next coming genius in the agency. Some of us use the weblog column as memory, speech, connection, and release. To be frank, we know that most of what we write is only read by ourselves, but the very act of writing it – writing it well, if we can manage that – is enough to make it real.

Oddly enough, we are doing something useful…

IKEA Are Doing Something Right In A Wrong World

IKEA – the Swedish meatball and MDF shelving kings – are doing something right, and it is heartening to see it. I would wish that other retailers might follow suit.

I visited their premises today to replace a floor lamp that I had destroyed. That’s not the sort of thing that you often write, but I’m sure the readers have had similar experiences; you set out to do a simple repair and you end up throwing something in the bin and going to buy a new one. In the case of the IKEA lamp, I got away easy – if it had been a motor car or something complex it would have been much more traumatic.

Retail trade in Perth is in a slow period – notwithstanding the Christmas season. Oh, there are sales and promotions galore – the post box is full of flyers – but the shops can be light-on as far as paying customers. There is a lot of stock in the camera shop I write for, and there’s only a week until Christmas to clean it out. In fact, it won’t get cleaned out, and there will have to be a series of excruciating sales in the new year to get back shelf space.

But in IKEA, they are lined up at the tills three-deep. Why? What is there about the place that encourages us to go out there. How many bedside tables or jars of marinated herring can we use? When is our capacity for roll-around steel trolleys filled?

Well, I think I’ve got some of the reasons:

a. The stuff they sell is cheap enough that you do not need to be a mining magnate to buy it. They can still sell things for under $ 10, under $ 50, under $ 100. Try getting that at the trendy shops in the richer suburbs…

b. The stuff is reasonably good. Not everything is European-nobility-exclusive quality. Neither are the customers…even if they pretend to be. But there are few outright duds in the range and if anything proves to be really awful, they take it back without question.

c. If you make a wrong choice, they’ll still take it back. This is a massive safety net under your shopping confidence and makes you bolder to try new things.

d. The staff members are pleasant – sometimes thin on the floor, and sometimes overworked, but always kindly. And the fact that the firm hires a wide variety of people means that you get the feeling that they’ll take care of you.

e. The goods are interesting shapes – even when they are plain. You might not get exactly the style that was in your mind, but you can find something that is pretty close to it. You’ll not be overburdened by ethnic furniture choices that clash with the rest of the house – it can all pretty much fit in.

f. The stuff works. If you buy a bookshelf you can keep books on it and if you buy a bed you can sleep on it. Their ovens cook. Don’t laugh – you can go elsewhere and buy trouble  and failure at higher prices.

g. They have a cafeteria with food that you don’t make for yourself at home. And that does not cost $ 29 a plate.

h. They have parking. Parking that you can go to directly, that is free, and that is secure. You can load up your purchases at an easy bay. Heck, you can pay a very modest fee and they’ll deliver the entire store to your house next day. We know – we bought a kitchen that came to us just that way.

i. Their online catalog is accurate. Oh, Lordy, do I know the perils of the on-line catalogue in other trades. I know that there can be wild inaccuracies that do not communicate themselves to either the management nor the customers…until someone tries to buy what they think they want from a place that thinks it has it…and both parties to the transaction discover that it is all just a shambles.

I looked today at the online catalogue…because I couldn’t find the big free paper one in the spare room. It was clear and organised and I saw exactly what I needed. The department in the IKEA store had the items stacked neatly and labeled clearly, and my money came out in a flash. Good business all round.

Do I have shares in the company? No. Do I get free furniture for writing this? No. But I do get good stuff and good service each time I go there, and a sense of accomplishment when I turn one of their flat cardboard packs into a real piece of furniture.